In just over three months, voters will be going to the polls to weigh in on whether Belize should take Guatemala’s claim to the International Court of Justice. The campaign by the Referendum Unit had amped up just before the Christmas season and is expected to proceed in the coming days. This is what you would call the final leg of the campaign process on this matter and the Belize Peace Movement is getting a head start as they called a press conference this morning to continues their agitation for a ‘no’ vote. Their point of contention this morning dates back to 1992 as explained by Patrick Rogers.
Patrick Rogers of the Belize Peace Movement: “In 1992 the Maritime areas bill was made into law but if we put into perspective that it was an attempt by Belzie to concede something to President George Serrano so he could take back to his congress to effectively get his congress to say yes let’s accept Belize’s territorial integrity. The Maritime areas act was not sufficient so they never passed it as law in Guatemala so it’s a one side thing. Only Belize made the Maritime areas act which should have also been passed in Guatemala as well and the Guatemalan congress would have respected the Belizean territorial integrity. It didn’t work out that way so what we weren’t aware of is up until a couple weeks ago is that we were gotten to the table by Guatemalans to sign this joint statement. Now this joint statement is what efficiently says the 1859 claim that we are making that establishes our boundaries is no longer valid because we signed accepting that there does not exist and international border between us and that this joint agreement is saying that we Belize and Guatemala commit to negotiating a final treaty that will finally determine that international border so we are left now with these two documents rubbishing this because this has always been rough. This is a unilateral attempt to be marked, the boundary that Guatemala said that they have accepted was supposed to be co jointly. It was never done co jointly, we are saying that when we reached the ICJ even the first time Belizeans would have been exposed to this document because we are governed by the confidence building measures which came out of these negotiations from this which is to say that Guatemala told us that we are not to say anything bad about them and they won’t do anything bad. Well they didn’t respect that, they do us bad right and then they use aggression in the south and when the incident with the young man being killed at the adjacency zone they gone on the bad mouth way so they are not abiding by the very agreements they signed onto in the confidence building measures but they are holding out foot to it so when we see Sedi saying that Will and the Territorial Volunteers are the one to blame and we see them passing legislation so that we don’t go into those waters and make the Guatemalans have to aggress us to look bad in the foreign press. Whom are these people working for.”
In recent years, both the Caribbean Community and the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States have expressed solidairty with Belize on the Belize Guatemala issue. Rogers, however, has based part of his argument on a response from Guatemala to Caricom.
Patrick Rogers of the Belize Peace Movement: “I have here in front of me a clipping from the Amandala newspaper from the 23rd of March 2016 and its caption is “Guatemala responds to CARICOM”. The Sarstoon is out so you see regardless of what we are being told by our Foreign Ministry and you can google this thing, it’s there on the record where Guatemala made three responses to CARICOM. On Monday March 22nd Guatemala Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement also dated March 18th in which he made three assertions: one it claims that the Government of Guatemala reaffirms that the Sarstoon is Guatemalan territory. With respect to the March 12 incident it said that the Government of Guatemala reiterates its position that Belizean soldiers were not provoked but were asked to follow the security protocols primarily used for the Sarstoon. In relation to the assertion by CARICOM with respect to what it identifies at Belize’s southern border with Guatemala. The Guatemalan Government reiterates that it has denounced the 1859 Boundary Treaty between Guatemala and Great Britain with respect to British Honduras. Do to what is breached is a clause seven by Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is said that treaty expiration was renounced by Guatemalan congress via decree number 224 of April 9th 1946. Guatemala’s statement closed by saying that consequently the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirms once more that Guatemala will continue to exercise sovereignty over the Sarstoon River as it is now doing until the ICJ definitively determines the territorial installer and Maritime Referendum between the countries so it’s not if maybe or but if Guatemala is taking over the island in the which would then be annexation. The problem is that because they had renounced the 1859 Treaty, a careful read of this Treaty again is said that we do have a protocol for the Sarstoon, it is at article six in here but if this Treaty fell they are figuring now with their rights in this territory their new border will come to Moho or Monkey River or maybe even Sibun so they have started to do something that will have an impact at the ICJ. That something is to exercise effective control over the territory.””
A group of reporters from Belize were at The Hague in The Netherlands late last year and they were informed by legal minds that Guatemala cannot unilaterally deem a treaty as void. All treaties are archived at the United Nations and only the parties to a treaty can collectively deem the document invalid. The Belize delegation was also informed that if the matter reaches the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the primary document that the court would look at is the 1859 treaty